Lewes Community Allotment

Tourist Information Window - celebrating three years of Flourish

We decided to celebrate three years of the Flourish project with a display in one of the Lewes Tourist Information Centre windows. The Lewes TIC is situated in the centre of town, so lots of people see it, and many service users can take a look as they pass by.

We wanted to involve users in the display, for it to be entertaining and engaging, to tell a story through pictures, in the most part, and to show what we do, offering positive images of people with learning disabilities and mental health challenges at the sessions that we run at our three sites.

We included quotations from service users about how they'd felt after their sessions in the 'clouds'.

The overall look of the display was designed by graphic designer Suzie Johanson. Photographer David Stacey helped with lots of the planning and thought processes, and did a fantastic job compiling letters of the project using photographs. Michi Mathias created the pictures of the horse and stable door as well as the apple tree and apples that you can see in the photos, representing Baulcombes Barn and Ringmer Community Orchard. Lewes Community Allotment is in the centre, represented by a hazel obelisk, as well as two watering cans, two trugs (one full of knitted fruit and veg on loan from Brighton and Hove Food Partnership), and various gardening tools.

A team of myself (Emma Chaplin, project manager), Suzie, Michi and Lois gathered at the TIC with handfuls of props to set everything up. The TIC kindly lent us the astroturf, and we used the struts and fishing line to dangle everything. We stuck the photos up with push pins, added apples with blu-tac (which I got upsidedown to start with!) and laid out all the other bits and pieces, adding straw and the knitted veg. 

We've included a number of wildlife creatures we see at the allotment in the window for people to find - including a blackbird, a caterpillar, a bee, a hedgehog, a lizard and two butterflies.

Michi also created a fantastic poster which features various animals from Baulcombes Barn as well as quotes from members of Bluebell House Recovery Centre, who attend regular sessions.

Huge thanks to everyone who helped! It was Maggie's idea to do it in the first place in the TIC. Thanks to Lois Parker, for the great butterflies and lizard, and for helping out with the window set-up. James McCauley, who heroically helped with sorting, editing and printing all the project photos (on the post on the left hand side). Arnold Goldman lent us a trug, as did Anne Turner. Janet Sutherland lent a watering can and old seed packets.  Billie from Leadbetter and Good, who lent us the pig.

And thanks to everyone in the Tourist Info, who have been so helpful and supportive. 

Grapevine post repairs at Lewes Community Allotment

 

By Sarah Rideout

Our grapevine posts needed replacing and Tom Kirkby has put new ones in using rammed earth and chalk. First he had to dig very deep holes - three of them!

Luke from Rodmell Food Forest very kindly brought some posts over, but they weren't quite long enough for this job, will be useful elsewhere though.

Lots of repairs needed at the moment...

Signs of spring & other news from the Community Allotment

By Sarah Rideout, 14/3/2018

Saw lots on our 'signs of spring' walk today - wild violets, bumble bees, lambs, skylarks, and the tiny delicate jewels of hazel flowers. A common lizard was warming itself on the tyre by the pond.

Leeks, kale, Japanese salads, herbs and brussels sprouts were all picked today in the sunshine - but look out for a cold snap again this weekend...!

Photos from almost two decades at Lewes Community Allotment - from early days to Flourish!

Lewes Community Allotment began life in 1998. It's gone from being an unused plot to the wonderful, accessible resource now enjoyed by many local groups and individuals. We have raised beds, a covered shelter, a pizza oven, ponds, children's area, fruit trees, herbs, flowers and an abundant array of vegetables. 

We will be celebrating 20 years in 2018, and we'd like to thank everyone who has supported the project. All our wonderful members, Common Cause Cooperative directors, Lewes Town Council, the National Lottery, plus all the people, young and old, who have come up to lend a hand, muck in and help, or simply enjoy the space.

Sarah Rideout,

Photos by Sarah Rideout, Emma Chaplin & others

Bench cushion at the Allotment

Since we've got such a fine new bench at the allotment from a Transition Town Lewes donation, we felt it would be really lovely if interested allotment members created a cushion for it, made from wool from Owena's sheep at Baulcombes Barn.

So Owena came up to the allotment with bags of her wool and her peg-loom, to demonstrate how to make a peg-loom 'cushion' (which could just as easily be a rug). They are relatively easy to make, once you've got the technique, and every one is different, which is particularly nice - it depends on the colour of the sheep, and Owena's sheep are Shetland sheep, which have different coloured wool, from pale to dark brown. 

Owena showed us examples of ones she's working on and explained that wool, once so valuable, has largely lost value in this country - and is mostly exported. The top she was wearing has been made from soft, fine merino wool. In New Zealand, they have developed fine wool products such as merino, which are still commercially valuable.

She told us that you can weave with either unwashed or washed wool. The former is somewhat smellier and the outcome more random, but can be washed in a machine after it's been woven. Washed and combed wool, on the other hand, is fluffy and cloud-like. She handed round examples of combed/washed and uncombed/unwashed wool and explained that you can wash the unwashed wool in a tub with a hard olive oil soap bar. Or, you can get it washed and combed by an expert she knows with suitable equipment, which does make life easier! She had taken some of the Shetland wool to Diamond Fibres to be processed into 'slivers' which we can use for peg loom weaving. 'Slivers' - the first stage of raw fleece. Roving - is when you get a long cord of it.

She then demonstrated how to use the loom, which is quite simple once you've got the wool prepared. You use strong strands of wool to run through the rug as you weave it, that get tightened as you press each woven layer down. Differences in tension make for variations in widths of the woven rug/blanket. Once you've filled each peg, you pull the pegs out of what you've woven, one by one, and push them back in to the holes again, so you can start weaving again. So the length of the weave increases bit by bit. 

Emma and Sarah went to measure the bench so the allotment weavers could decide how many pegs to use to make the cushions to fit the seat ie the right width. In terms of length, Owena pointed out you can make one long weave to make a cushion, or several smaller ones, which you can then join together.  

The group began to weave their own cushion, with Owena's supervision.

Update - early November

Everyone that wanted to (including volunteers, staff, allotment members and project users) has contributed to increasing the length of the peg-loom cushion over the intervening weeks, so it's a lovely patchwork of all our efforts. Owena returned to work with the St Nicholas Day Centre group in order to show them how to finish off the cushion, ready to go on the bench. So now we have the finished product, and it's comfy, warm and lovely. Thanks everyone, wonderful joint effort.

Allotment news - Conservation Volunteer-mended steps and pathways & a new bench

NEWLY-MENDED PATHS AND STEPS

There's been some hard work going on by a team from TCV (The Conservation Volunteers), led by senior officer Tim Hills. They have fixed the steps leading down to the tap. Lewes Town Council have been kind enough to help fund this.

The TCV team have also been mending and improving our paths, which, alongside Lewes Town Ranger's regular strimming of them, has made them safer and more accessible. They've made the slope much safer, with a chestnut frame, widened some paths, flattened the camber.  We're very pleased that our Lottery funding allows us to do this.

Thanks guys!

NEW BENCH

We have a lovely new and beautifully long bench at the allotment! It's thanks to a very kind donation by Transition Town Lewes, and the timing couldn't be better, because our old benches, having provided long service in the almost 20 years that Common Cause have run the community allotment, are reaching the end of their lives.

This sturdy new bench will benefit all of the groups that use the site; the weekly groups from the St Nicholas Day Centre and the Plumpton College Rural Pathways students, as well as others.

Members and project users come along and work very hard, so having a really good place to sit and rest, and enjoy the beautiful view, is important.

We're hoping to fashion seat cushions of some description, perhaps from wool from Owena's sheep at Baulcombes Barn. She's made some for her own benches with her peg loom, so that might be an excellent winter project.

Taster session with the Download Group

We were delighted to welcome the Sussex Partnership Recovery College Download Group to the Allotment in July.

They came for a taster session - and taste is what they did! After we'd done some introductions and talked about our favourite seasons, we went round the allotment tasting different fruits and vegetables. These included: Japanese wineberries, cloudberries, raspberries, plus fennel, parsley and nasturtium flowers (which are quite peppery!).

We also looked for wildlife at the allotment.

After we'd done the tasting and looking for wildlife, we went into the shelter for some drinks (Sarah had made some delicious blackcurrant cordial) and some wonderful blackberry crunch bars and raspberry buns made by Felicity Ann with berries from the Allotment.

Find out more about the Recovery College on their website here

Michael Blencowe from Sussex Wildlife on bugs & butterflies

Today the St Nick's group came up on a sunny but blustery day for a bug and butterfly session with our old friend, Michael Blencowe from Sussex Wildlife.

We walked around the allotment with him as our guide, looking for bugs, catching them sometimes to see them, then letting them go. We also walked up the path outside the allotment. He pointed out various birds as we walked around, including a wren, and wood pigeons.

We saw a dock bug. We learnt that some bugs and beetles take on the look of a wasp to protect themselves - including the wasp beetle and the hover-fly, both of which he showed us.

We saw a hawthorn shield bug.

We were surprised to hear that there are 3,000 varieties of beetle in Sussex alone. He showed us an asparagus beetle, a wasp beetle,  a long horned beetle,  a pretty swollen-thighed beetle and a rose-chafer beetle.

He told us that foxgloves, which we have by the ponds, are good for bees.

Sarah mentioned that the broccoli is covered up to stop pigeons and cabbage white butterflies from eating it all.

Michael showed us a mullion caterpillar on the plant of same name. We saw an ichneuman wasp. We also spotted a rare small blue butterfly.

Finally, we were delighted to get our copy of his wonderful new Sussex Butterflies book, which he kindly signed.

Easter Fire and Feast with Chloe Edwards

Chloe Edwards from Seven Sisters Spices joined us for the morning at our Community Allotment for a Fire and Feast event just before Easter. We had our usual Wednesday morning group from the St Nicholas Day Centre, and Chloe showed us all how to chop (the safe 'bridge' method using the whole hand to hold the vegetable, to prevent slipping and injury) and also mashing, to prepare a delicious meal of bean burgers and tasty salads.

We got the fire going early and by the time the food was ready to cook, the fire was down to nice hot embers, perfect for cooking.

With bean burgers sizzling and buns toasting, we made the finishing touches to tzatziki (yoghurt, mint and cucumber), a pickling salad of radish and carrot, tomato salad and just-picked green salad, all with guidance from Chloe.

Then we enjoyed sharing the lovely food and having a chat in the fresh air.

Thanks to Eleanor, Emmanuel, Felicity Ann and Maggie for helping out.

Sarah Rideout, LCA coordinator, April 2017

Have a look through our photos of the event. Some were taken by us, some by Chloe.

A sunny April day at the Allotment

What a lovely morning at the Allotment. Here's Andy, planting our new plum tree from Woodruff's

And here's a common lizard sunbathing on a tyre - all pics from allotment coordinator Sarah Rideout

And here are some of our allotment members, working hard

And here are some of our allotment members, working hard

Willow hurdle making with Lewes Community Allotment members

We'd seen some excellent work at the Community Allotment making willow hurdles to protect the beds by Plumpton College students. Then our members gave it a try - also with great results. 

Making willow hurdles at the Allotment

A slideshow of our willow weaving session

On a wild and stormy afternoon, with Hurricane Doris on the way, the Plumpton Rural Pathways group arrived at Lewes Community Allotment, carrying bundles of willow they had cut two weeks ago at Owena's smallholding, Baulcombes Barn. Local basket maker Sarah Lawrence was on hand to show them how to weave the willow into hurdles to edge the flower and vegetable beds, to keep the soil in. 

She began by talking about health and safety - particularly with sharp secateurs and working with long pieces of willow that tend to whip about and can damage eyes.  

We split into different groups to do different tasks.

Sarah told the weaving group that we needed to find the fattest lengths first to slot into the wooden frame that Neil Merchant had kindly made for us to allow us to make the willow hurdle structures. These pieces of willow were then cut with loppers to equal lengths. 

Sarah said we needed to be careful to keep the outside structural ends straight and upright whilst we wove thinner pieces across them so they don't pull together and make a triangle. We then took turns to weave the willow pieces across between the uprights, turning at the ends, doing it in pairs at each end one at a time, changing which side of the hurdle we started with each time for stability, and pushing the willow down each time. 

We loved the different colours of the willow. We all had a go and were really pleased with how it worked out.

Sarah had also brought a paint tin lid opening tool for making holes in ground to make a hurdle straight into the earth, and she showed another group how to do that!

The other groups got on with some excellent tidying and trimming back work.

Emma Chaplin